United's old guard show new school how it's done

Norwich City 1 Manchester United 2

Carrow Road

Somehow it was inevitable that Ryan Giggs would celebrate his 900th appearance for Manchester United with an injury-time winner. United, specialists at late comebacks throughout the Welshman's 21-year career at Old Trafford, seemed to have paid for a failure to add to Paul Scholes's early opener when Grant Holt hit a late equaliser for Norwich City five minutes from time. But it was not late enough, and Giggs netted with a close-range shot in the second of three minutes of added time.

It got another of United's trademarks – their annual spring offensive – back on track. They have now taken 16 points from a possible 18 in the Premier League since back-to-back defeats by Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United either side of the New Year, and yesterday's win ensured the gap at the top of the Premier League narrowed to two points again after Manchester City's victory over Blackburn on Saturday.

"It is a great result, and next week we have a really big game at White Hart Lane, which will be fantastic," Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said. "Everyone knows we never give in. No matter who plays us, they know they will have to play right to the death. Given the career Ryan has had, to score the winning goal with the last kick of the game, I think he deserved that."

Ferguson hailed the two scorers as "the best players this club has ever had," which might provoke debate among those who remember George Best, Bobby Charlton or Duncan Edwards, but the combined age of Giggs, 38, and Scholes, 37, represents remarkable longevity at the top level.

They first started a Premier League match together in November 1994, and last scored in the same league match in a 4-0 win against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in 2007. "The two of them are a huge part of Manchester United's history," Paul Lambert, the Norwich manager, said. "They know how to win. From the outside looking in, two fabulous footballers, marvellous players."

It may be a source of concern for United that they had to rely on the old guard for victory once again. Danny Welbeck missed several chances to put the result beyond doubt and David De Gea, 21, was one of the few younger players on the United side to enhance his reputation, with memorable saves from Anthony Pilkington, Holt and Aaron Wilbraham.

"I have to say we were lucky," Ferguson admitted. "Although we made a host of chances – Danny Welbeck could have scored four – I thought Norwich were the better team. They had a lot of thrust about them, [were] determined and kept crossing that ball into the box. They deserved a point and it was a great goal they scored, but at that moment you saw us as Manchester United."

In the early stages it seemed United would stroll it as Norwich showed them far too much respect. After seven minutes Nani was under no pressure as he aimed a cross towards the heart of the Norwich penalty area, where Scholes was left unmarked to nod in from six yards. Only John Ruddy prevented United doubling the lead in the 16th minute, getting smartly down to his right to touch Welbeck's first-time shot around the post after Javier Hernandez had stolen unnoticed into the Norwich penalty area and cut the ball back.

Norwich had to improve and they did, and De Gea saved when Kyle Naughton's chip picked out the run of Pilkington, who met the ball on the half-volley from less than six yards. And De Gea did even better to clutch Holt's glancing header from Pilkington's cross.

Lambert made a change at the interval, putting on Wes Hoolahan to give United's midfield more to worry about, but Scholes and Michael Carrick were seldom hurried.

Norwich had to hang on as Welbeck went clear but his lob sailed wide while Giggs met Phil Jones' cross with a guided volley that beat Ruddy but not the crossbar.

Norwich, though, were still in it, and their breakthrough was assisted by Scholes' only error, his wayward square pass pounced on by Wilbraham, who let fly from 20 yards De Gea fingertipped it over, but the corner was only half-cleared, Adam Drury and Zak Whitbread returned the ball into the penalty area and Holt held off a defender to score with a fierce shot on the turn.

It was his tenth goal of the season and looked as if it would be enough to secure a point, especially when Welbeck somehow failed to make any contact with Giggs' cross when it seemed he must restore United's lead, then saw Ruddy block his low shot. But the warnings went unheeded, Norwich defended too deep, and Ashley Young crossed from the left for Giggs to prod home at the far post. "Obviously it was a great day for me personally," Giggs said. "900 games for United is a real honour and to score the winner – it doesn't get any better."

A great day for Giggs, but a kick in the teeth for Norwich? "A kick in another region," Lambert said. "But Man United have done it for 25 years since Sir Alex has been there. But that was a huge performance by us. We gave everything, we were running on empty. I couldn't fault our lads."

Rooney is ruled out for England

Wayne Rooney will not figure in England's friendly against the Netherlands on Wednesday, said Sir Alex Ferguson, who also ruled out the young midfielder Tom Cleverley. "They'll be out. Wayne has still not recovered from his throat infection, so hopefully we'll get him ready for next Sunday, when we have a big game at White Hart Lane," Ferguson said. The Aston Villa striker Darren Bent will also miss Wednesday's England match, after injuring his foot at Wigan on Saturday.

Match details

Norwich: RUDDY 7/10; NAUGHTON 7; WARD 6; WHITBREAD 6; DRURY 6; PILKINGTON 6; FOX 6; JOHNSON 5; SURMAN 7; JACKSON 6; HOLT 6

Manchester Utd: DE GEA 8; EVRA 5; FERDINAND 7; EVANS 6; JONES 5; GIGGS 7; SCHOLES 8 CARRICK 6; NANI 6; HERNANDEZ 4; WELBECK 7

Substitutes: Norwich City Hoolahan 7 (Jackson, h-t), Bennett 7 (Johnson, 63), Wilbraham 7 (Pilkington, 70).

Manchester United Young 7 (Hernandez, 63), Smalling (Giggs, 90).

Booked: Norwich Johnson. Manchester United Evans, Ferdinand.

Man of the match De Gea. Match rating 7/10.

Possession: Norwich 52% Manchester United 48%.

Attempts on target: Norwich 7 Manchester United 9.

Referee A Marriner (West Midlands) Attendance 26,811.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
i100
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit